Monday, 22 February 2010

Hestan Island Revisited

Came across the following on the Auchencairn Community website....

Beryl spoke of the 1950s when with her husband John she frequently visited this forgotten corner of Scotland on camping holidays in their motor cycle engined Bond Mini car. She loved the car - even if it did have no reverse gear and she had to lift it round to go in the opposite direction and despite it's habit of overheating when faced with a hill and it needing to rest for a while before continuing the journeys.

Their holidays eventually led to the longing to move to the area and thus in 1956 they started looking for a place to live in Galloway. By chance they found out that the sole occupant of Hestan Island (a place that they often viewed form their regular camp site near Rockcliffe), was planning to leave. After visiting the island and meeting Mr Houston they had a few months to wait until it was confirmed that the lease was theirs.

Beryl told the enthralled audience of tales of daring crossings with all their wordly goods balanced in small boats and how they tried to make the small island cottage more habitable after the many years of it being occupied by the solo and some might say a bit eccentric Mr Houston. He for example survived on a a daily diet of a large loaf of bread and a quantity of black (for black read burnt) bacon. He also had a love of condensed milk and retained hundreds of the empty tins in the front porch as potential balast for his boat. All facilities were to say the least - basic, but gradually got improved.

Their main income was £50 a year for wintering sheep, £50 a year for tending the light on the island's lighthouse and another £50 a year from husband John playing the church organ at Colvend on the mainland. This meagre income was supplemented by growing vegetables on a patch outside the cottage where they used seaweed as fertilizer. They found that they competed for the top few inches of the carrots with the rats that were at that time prolific. However Beryl said that the bottom parts were salvageable.

She described their relationship with local fishermen and how they learned the safe routes to walk across the sands of Balcary Bay to the Shore Road that leads to Auchencairn. They were well warned by Mr Parker, the salmon fisher, about avoiding the 'quackin quass' (quick sands) beyond the stake nets.

As her husband John was a keen organist he developed his interest as far as starting to manufacture pipe organs on the island. This provided a bit of a challenge when it came to transporting them to the mainland as they had to go by fairly small boat. He sold the organs with 1 manual and a single row of pipes for £250 each. One was fitted in Southwick and Dalbeattie Episcopal Church (another takes pride of place in our kirk here in Auchencairn).

Beryl and John left Hestan in 1960 for a slightly easier life on the mainland but she still dreams of their days on their own Galloway Island and of course has written her book recording the whole episode.


David said...

have you seen the Hestan Website?

Hestan Island

Rob said...

Hi David,

On an earlier post,, I put a link in to the website. NIcely lais out site. I take it the site is your own work ?


Rob Dee said...

Beryl who,I would like to track down her book.

Rob said...

"A presentation was given by Revd. Beryl M Scott regarding her experiences as a resident on Hestan Island in Balcary Bay. Her experiences can also be found in her book 'On a Galloway Island' that affords fascinating reading."

It's listed in Amazon.

Hope the above helps.



Rob Dee said...

Thanks Rob,looking forward to reading it:)